Blogtober Book Review: The Library Book by Susan Orlean


On the morning of April 29, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. As the moments passed, the patrons and staff who had been cleared out of the building realized this was not the usual fire alarm. As one fireman recounted, “Once that first stack got going, it was ‘Goodbye, Charlie.’” The fire was disastrous: it reached 2000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed four hundred thousand books and damaged seven hundred thousand more. Investigators descended on the scene, but more than thirty years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library—and if so, who?
Weaving her lifelong love of books and reading into an investigation of the fire, award-winning New Yorker reporter and New York Times bestselling author Susan Orlean delivers a mesmerizing and uniquely compelling book that manages to tell the broader story of libraries and librarians in a way that has never been done before.
In The Library Book, Orlean chronicles the LAPL fire and its aftermath to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives; delves into the evolution of libraries across the country and around the world, from their humble beginnings as a metropolitan charitable initiative to their current status as a cornerstone of national identity; brings each department of the library to vivid life through on-the-ground reporting; studies arson and attempts to burn a copy of a book herself; reflects on her own experiences in libraries; and reexamines the case of Harry Peak, the blond-haired actor long suspected of setting fire to the LAPL more than thirty years ago.
Along the way, Orlean introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters from libraries past and present—from Mary Foy, who in 1880 at eighteen years old was named the head of the Los Angeles Public Library at a time when men still dominated the role, to Dr. C.J.K. Jones, a pastor, citrus farmer, and polymath known as “The Human Encyclopedia” who roamed the library dispensing information; from Charles Lummis, a wildly eccentric journalist and adventurer who was determined to make the L.A. library one of the best in the world, to the current staff, who do heroic work every day to ensure that their institution remains a vital part of the city it serves.
Brimming with her signature wit, insight, compassion, and talent for deep research, The Library Book is Susan Orlean’s thrilling journey through the stacks that reveals how these beloved institutions provide much more than just books—and why they remain an essential part of the heart, mind, and soul of our country. It is also a master journalist’s reminder that, perhaps especially in the digital era, they are more necessary than ever.
The Library BookReview:
The Library Book was my book club pick for May/June (we’re not the greatest at reading the book in one month and meeting before the month is over hah!) I was really intrigued by the synopsis of this book. I’d never heard about the Los Angeles Library fire which was a little surprising considering it was the biggest library fire in the United States. Though after reading this book, I found out why it’s not as well-known as I thought it might be.
Sadly, I wanted to like this book more than I did. While I did learn a lot about the L.A. Library fire (it burned for 7 hours and 36 minutes), I found it to be repetitive with a very unsatisfying ending. Part of me assumed we would be trying to figure out the mystery of who set the fire (because it was deemed as arson) and that was not the case. I felt like there was a lot of information that wasn’t really necessary to the story. The chapters jumped around between current day, the history of L.A.’s librarians, the fire, and other various topics. The story was a bit boring at times, but I’m glad to have read it because I feel like I learned so much about something I never knew previously.
I would like to mention that Orlean’s writing was INCREDIBLE. I actually cried as I was reading the parts about when the fire was actually happening. She really knew how to pull me in and use descriptions to make me feel all the things. The Library Book was full of nostalgia for me. It talks about going to the library as a kid and then rekindling that love for the library as an adult and it was really relatable because I’ve always had a special connection with the library. The author made me want to change my college degree from English to Library Science. She makes being a librarian sound like so much fun.
Overall, this wasn’t my favorite non-fiction that I’ve read, but I learned a lot and mostly had a good time. There were things I liked and things that I didn’t, but if you’re looking to learn about libraries and the Los Angeles Public Library fire of 1986, this is the book for you.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, they rode in chauffeured cars and lived in mansions.
Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed. Mollie Burkhart watched as her family became a prime target. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. Other Osage were also dying under mysterious circumstances, and many of those who investigated the crimes were themselves murdered.
As the death toll rose, the case was taken up by the newly created FBI and its young, secretive director, J. Edgar Hoover. Struggling to crack the mystery, Hoover turned to a. former Texas Ranger named Tom White, who put together an undercover team, including a Native American agent. They infiltrated this last remnant of the Wild West, and together with the Osage began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBIReview:
Killers of the Flower Moon was the book club pick for my local book club in the month of January. It’s definitely outside of my usual reading pick. Despite that, I ended up getting engrossed in the story. This is a true crime novel and it totally blew me away. As I get older, I’m finding more and more stories that really should be taught in history classes. This was definitely one of them. The fact that this is something I’d never heard of before this book was incredible to me.
This book tells the story of the injustices against the Osage Indians. They were used and abused and treated inhumanely. They were declared incompetent so that they couldn’t control their own money. They were made to move once, twice, three times before settling in Oklahoma on undesirable land. All of this was​ done by the government, by the American people. This is why it’s not talked about. Why would the government want to admit the horrible things they’d done and let happen to the Osage people? Treating them as less than people, not even allowing them to be in control of their own money, by doing these things, they allowed all of the horrible things that happened by regulating the Osage this way.
This book is told in three parts. The first following Mollie Burkhart as the family she loves is dying around her, the second from the perspective of FBI Agent White, and the third from the author. I’m still a bit undecided whether or not I liked this. I definitely liked the first two parts. It was interesting to see how it all started from Mollie’s point of view and then to see how it was all wrapped up from White’s point of view, but then the author comes in and says, “Oh you thought it was over? Jokes on you, there’s SO much more.” I liked how it was written, I think I’m just bothered by the ‘but wait, there’s more’ twist. I know it’s not really a twist because it’s literally our history and this is not a plot twist in a fiction novel. I was just very unsatisfied with the idea that there was so much more to the story that no one did anything about despite knowing about it.
Killers of the Flower Moon tells of countless injustices against the Osage people. It was incredible to me just the immense amount of conspiracy and corruption went on during this time. All of the people that should have been doing their jobs to help the Osage Indians did exactly the opposite of that. I’m just still reeling from the events I learned about and I finished this book over a week ago. If you have never heard of this story, you definitely need to read it.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review – The Recovering: Intoxication and It’s Aftermath by Leslie Jamison

By the New York Times bestselling author of The Empathy Exams, an exploration of addiction, and the stories we tell about it, that reinvents the traditional recovery memoir.
With its deeply personal and seamless blend of memoir, cultural history, literary criticism, and journalistic reportage, The Recovering turns our understanding of the traditional addiction narrative on its head, demonstrating that the story of recovery can be every bit as electrifying as the train wreck itself. Leslie Jamison deftly excavates the stories we tell about addiction–both her own and others’–and examines what we want these stories to do, and what happens when they fail us.
All the while, she offers a fascinating look at the larger history of the recovery movement, and at the literary and artistic geniuses whose lives and works were shaped by alcoholism and substance dependence, including John Berryman, Jean Rhys, Raymond Carver, Billie Holiday, David Foster Wallace, and Denis Johnson, as well as brilliant figures lost to obscurity but newly illuminated here.
For the power of her striking language and the sharpness of her piercing observations, Jamison has been compared to such iconic writers as Joan Didion and Susan Sontag. Yet her utterly singular voice also offers something new. With enormous empathy and wisdom, Jamison has given us nothing less than the story of addiction and recovery in America writ large, a definitive and revelatory account that will resonate for years to come.
I borrowed this as an audiobook from my local library. I’m always looking for new audiobooks to listen to because I’m pretty picky about which ones I like. I tend to really enjoy non-fiction and not so much fantasy. So I found this one through the recommendation of a BookTuber, I sadly don’t remember which one it was though.
This book was insightful and informative. Though it was very long, part of me felt that I couldn’t listen to it for long periods of time like I can with some stories. As an alcoholic myself, I love listening to stories written by others that struggle with the same things that I do. This story was so relatable. The shame, the desire, it was all there exactly how I feel it. On top of this, there was a whole other level. Leslie Jamison writes about what it is like to be a writer with a drinking problem. I am exactly that. The struggles of being a writer in today’s world, with all of the history between drinking and being an author, it so well portrayed in The Recovering.
This story was so well written. As the author says in the book, she didn’t want to write ‘just another story of an alcoholic that gets better.’ It is not that at all. This story talks about the stories of many other writers with drinking problems, alongside the author’s own story. I loved the combination of the past, the history of writing and drinking, the struggles of writers that came before us. I loved following the author’s journey to learn about these people, the places they went, while she was overcoming (and sometimes failing) her own personal struggles.
For anyone that likes non-fiction, this is for sure a book I recommend. It was thought-provoking, insightful, and I really just enjoyed every minute.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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